Politics & Government
6:50 pm
Wed July 4, 2012

43 years later, a Vietnam veteran gets his Purple Heart

A Vietnam veteran finally received one of the nation's highest military honors on this Independence Day.

Arnold Spencer got his Purple Heart more than four decades after he was wounded in the leg and refused medical evacuation.

Spencer was only 19 years old when he served as an artillery forward observer in an infantry unit in Vietnam.   

He was wounded in a firefight, but turned down a medical evacuation, allowing a more seriously-injured soldier to go in his place, and returned to his unit.

But few knew about that until decades later, when Spencer’s friend and fellow soldier told military officials. After doing some paperwork, officials confirmed the man's story.

So 43 years later later, Michigan Senator Carl Levin gave Spencer his Purple Heart at a VFW Hall in Royal Oak.

“It’s a few decades late, but here it is,” Levin joked.

Spencer says he still thinks about that incident every day, and he’s thrilled to be honored for it.

“It’s still gratifying,” Spencer said. “For any combat soldier, the purple heart is the medal of honor.”

Spencer also took the opportunity to say a few words to Levin.

“I don’t usually get to talk to my Senator face-to-face,” Spencer said. “He has a good record of supporting Vietnam veterans. But I’m gonna tell him…if he wants my continued support, he’s gonna have to bring some of these guys back…some of these combat troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Spencer added that those returning veterans need jobs when they come home.

Levin told Spencer that combat troops have left Iraq, and are coming back from Afghanistan.

Levin also said the government is “finally making a major effort to connect our troops with jobs when they come home.”